Friday, November 22, 2013

Flash Back—November 22, 1963

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Visitors of all ages have been coming to the Addison see the exhibition Flash Back—November 22, 1963 and thinking about how artists have responded to this tragic event and the role of the media in shaping what we see and how we see it.

At this past Sunday’s gallery talk, exhibition curator Jaime DeSimone shared her ideas and perspectives. Visitors added their recollections of JFK as a president and how they felt when they heard the news that he had been shot. 

Firsthand accounts from teachers, visitors, and Addison staff members have helped our younger visitors understand the ways in which JFK’s death impacted individuals as well as the nation. 

10th graders from the Math Science and Technology School at Lawrence High School explored the idea of “the American Dream” in relation to JFK’s presidency. Sophomores focused on how JFK’s  legacy connects to the idea of “Community and Civic Engagement.” 

8th grade students from South Lawrence East wrote poems based on newspaper images of this historic event and read their work during their visit to the Addison. Students exercised their creativity by exploring unique perspectives and focusing on specific aspects of JFK’s assassination.

Phillips Academy international students explored the exhibition through the lens of the objectives of their English course, helping them to construct their own narratives of the American experience. 

Phillips Academy history classes used the exhibition not only to contextualize their studies of the United States in the 1960s, but as inspiration for their own forays into curating historical narratives. Just as Flash Back—November 22, 1963 asks viewers to examine the ways in which history is documented and communicated through media, the students selected, sequenced, and juxtaposed images from the Addison’s collection in the Addison Museum Learning Center to construct narratives that spoke to their own perspectives on themes from their U.S. history curriculum.

Flash Back—November 22, 1963 will remain on view until January 12, 2014.

- Posted by:
Christine Jee, Education Associate for School and Community Collaborations
Jamie Kaplowitz, Education Associate and Museum Learning Specialist

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Collection Spotlight: Hollis Frampton, The Secret World of Frank Stella, 1958-1962

Frank Stella (Class of 1954), one of the most significant and influential American artists of the postwar period, began his journey as a painter six decades ago in the basement of the Addison Gallery of American Art. It was also at Andover that he first met Hollis Frampton (Class of 1954), who went on to become an equally distinguished photographer and filmmaker. Four years after graduation from Phillips Academy, the two met again in New York, where they briefly shared an apartment and rekindled what was to be a lifelong friendship. Frampton began his series of fifty-two black-and-white images, The Secret World of Frank Stella, in collaboration with Stella, who posed both in his studio and across the city.

Hollis Frampton (1936-1984), #3 (28 painting Getty Tomb) from The Secret World of Frank Stella, 1958-1962, gelatin silver print, gift of Marion Faller, Addison Art Drive, 1990.34.3

In fact, 1958 is a milestone in the careers of both artists; for Frampton, it was the year he reconnected with Andover classmates Frank Stella and Carl Andre (Class of 1953) and settled in New York; for Stella, it was the year Leo Castelli first visited his Broadway studio and saw his now famous Black Paintings. The time period documented by Frampton’s series includes several other noteworthy moments in Stella’s career; the presentation of his Black Paintings—an example can be seen in #3 (28 painting Getty Tomb) above—in the 1959-60 MoMA exhibition Sixteen Americans (Frampton also took Stella’s picture for the accompanying exhibition catalogue) was followed by the creation of two more series of stripe paintings, Aluminum and Copper, examples of which can be seen in #5 (112 hand through hole in aluminum ptg) and #45 (688 naked, ventral view) respectively.

In addition to photographing Stella and his paintings, Frampton also wrote about him; one such instance is the following passage from 12 Dialogues 1962-1963, a book he co-authored with Carl Andre: “Frank Stella is a Constructivist. He makes paintings by combining identical, discrete units. Those units are not stripes, but brush strokes. We have both watched Frank Stella paint a picture. He fills in a pattern with uniform elements. His stripe designs are the result of the shape and limitation of his primary unit.” Throughout 12 Dialogues, Frampton and Andre often refer to Stella to illustrate their intellectually rigorous analysis of various aesthetic issues pertaining to specific mediums or works of art. Indeed, Stella’s own intellectually rigorous approach to painting is, in great part, what elevated him to the pantheon of abstract art.

The presentation of The Secret World of Frank Stella at the Addison coincides with Mr. Stella’s receiving the Andover Alumni Award of Distinction on November 1, 2013.  For more information on attending the award ceremony, please visit

— Kelley Tialiou, Curatorial Assistant

Further reading: Michael Zryd, "Hollis Frampton," in Addision Gallery of American Art 65 Years: A Selective Catalogue (Andover, MA: Addison Gallery of American Art, 1996), 373-74.

1 Hollis Frampton, "On Painting and Consecutive Matters November 4, 1962," in 12 Dialogues 1962-1963 (The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and New York University Press, 1980), 37.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Addison Family Fun

James Prosek reads from his
children's books at Memorial Hall
Library's story hour
Earlier this month, the Addison hosted a fun-filled weekend for our younger audiences. We partnered with Andover's Memorial Hall Library, where our Artist-in-Residence James Prosek read from his children’s books Bird, Butterfly, Eel and A Good Day's Fishing. The library now has James’s books in their collection, so stop by and grab your copies today!

Visitors of all ages create art
inspired by James Prosek's
work at our Drop-In Family Day
On Sunday, October 6th, more than 125 people joined us for the Addison’s Drop-In Family Day, held in conjunction with the exhibition James Prosek: The Spaces In Between. Visitors of all ages created prints with stamps shaped like fish, contributed to a collaborative bird silhouette mural, and created their own hybrid animals with feathers and foil paper, all inspired by James Prosek’s work. Music from James’s band Troutband was playing in the background. James was on hand to talk with visitors about his work, offer art-making tips, and answer the many questions of his young star-struck fans.

--Christine Jee, Education Associate for School and Community Collaborations

Interested in staying up to date with future family events at the Addison? Follow us on Facebook or email to sign up for the Addison’s family email list.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Collection Spotlight: Joan Lyons, Prom, 1975

In celebration of National Design Week, the Addison presents three objects from its collection, each highlighting different time periods, mediums, and aspects of American design. The final installment features a set of six offset lithographs that together compose Joan Lyons's Prom (1975).

Joan Lyons, Prom, 1975, six offset lithographs on wove paper, museum purchase, 1980.2.1-6

When put together, these six lithographs by Joan Lyons compose an image that is at once sweet and subtly intriguing.
On the one hand, the life-size scale of this piece invites a personal reading, by creating the illusion of peering into one’s closet and thus allowing for a rather intimate relationship with the object depicted. The delicate floral pattern and slightly faded pastel colors create an atmosphere of innocence and nostalgia for a time past, which turns the act of looking at this work of art into looking at the dress itself and reminiscing about the event at which it was once worn—whether a prom, as indicated by the title, or another moment of personal importance projected by the viewer.
On the other hand, the title informs the viewer about artwork’s intended associations. For Lyons, this hand-made dress symbolizes the difficulties of balancing the priorities of a mother and an artist, as well as the contrasts between preconceived and evolving notions of artistic expression; at first, the making of the dress delayed artistic output, then the dress itself dictated the imagery of the piece. The very way these two identities influence each other results in a delicate image with a powerful statement about the parallels of motherhood and artistic production: the mother sews together pieces of fabric to make her daughter’s prom dress, while the artist creates a set of images for the viewer to visually “sew” together. 

Active as a visual artist for four decades, Joan Lyons (b. 1937) was the subject of a 2007 retrospective exhibition at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center. Lyons’s works on paper effortlessly span several mediums, including various photographic processes and printmaking techniques. As the Founding Director of the Visual Studies Workshop Press between 1972 and 2004, Lyons has published over 450 titles, primarily artists’ books.

--Kelley Tialiou, Curatorial Assistant

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Collection Spotlight: Stuart Travis, Design for Yacht Interior, c. 1914

In celebration of National Design Week, the Addison presents three objects from its collection, each highlighting different time periods, mediums, and aspects of American design. The second installment is an early 20th century drawing, Design for a Yacht Interior by Stuart Travis.

Stuart Travis, Design for a Yacht Interior, c. 1914, ink, watercolor, gouache, pencil on wove paper, gift of Stuart Travis, 1959.8

This elegant mixed-media drawing, Design for Yacht Interior, features Stuart Travis’s proposed design for the breakfast room of a yacht, and reflects interior decorating practices of the Gilded Age, a period in which luxury yachting was a status symbol of paramount importance. The Arts and Crafts silver breakfast service shown on the table to the left, including what appears to be a pair of cafe-au-lait pots, and the Sheraton-style settee with rattan seat and back—as indicated by the designer’s note at the bottom of the drawing—suggest an environment of relaxed opulence, with a white cloth napkin nonchalantly placed on the edge of the tray and the yellow drapery flapping in the ocean breeze. For the floor of the breakfast room, Travis proposed a rather unassuming “hand-woven rag-rug in oval shape,” presumably to add an air of informality to the space; unlike the main saloon of a yacht, which would have featured the most extravagant furnishings and textiles, the breakfast room was, by nature, a more private space, and therefore its decoration could be based more so on the owner’s personal taste rather than the etiquette of elite society.

Though the patron of this sketch is not identified and therefore his tastes cannot be known, comparison with other high society interiors from this period, both afloat and ashore, indicates that the American aristocracy took its cultural cues from several European sources, primarily French chateaux, Italian villas, and English manors, eclectically combining Louis XIV, XV, and XVI, Rococo, Renaissance Revival, Neoclassical, and various English styles across the different rooms. While in the early twentieth century the profession of decorator was gradually becoming established, it was yet not uncommon for patrons to hire artists for part or all of their interior decoration needs.

A prolific American artist, illustrator, and designer, Stuart Travis (1868-1942) studied at the Académie Julian in Paris and subsequently established a New York studio. Numerous of his drawings and watercolors appeared in contemporary magazines, books, and advertisements; specifically, between 1907 and 1910, seven of his illustrations graced the pages and cover of Vogue magazine. Travis also created two murals on the Phillips Academy campus: History and Traditions of the School and Vicinity (1928) at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library and Culture Areas of North America (1938-42) at The Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology. For more information on Travis and his Andover murals, visit and

-- Kelley Tialiou, Curatorial Assistant

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Collection Spotlight: Phoebe Denison Billings, Bed Rug, 1741

In celebration of National Design Week, the Addison presents three objects from its collection, each highlighting different time periods, mediums, and aspects of American design. The first installment is an exquisite example of an 18th-century Bed Rug by Phoebe Denison Billings.

Phoebe Denison Billings, Bed Rug, 1741, wool worked on wool ground, bequest of Henry Perkins Moseley, 1940.25

The bed rug, used as an outer bedcover during the cold New England winter, is a fascinating object of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century domestic design, as its fabrication process was carried out single-handedly—and therefore controlled exclusively—by the rug maker, from collecting, washing, and carding (or combing) the fleece to spinning it into wool yarn, dyeing the yarn, weaving the fabric, and finally embroidering the patterns. This sophisticated early example of an embroidered wool bed rug was made in Connecticut, the source of most extant bed rugs. In the roughly symmetrical, graphically dramatic floral patterns, tulips and carnations have been combined with broad stylized leaves in an imaginary composition featuring two tones of yellow accented by two tones of green, set against a black background with a deep blue border. The shape of this early bed rug, however, varies from later ones, which typically consist of a square with the bottom two corners rounded.

Two interesting clues pertaining to the bed rug’s history can be found within the design itself; above the floral centerpiece appears the year of its fabrication, while below there is a set of initials, “B/EP.” It is important to note that Phoebe Billings (1690-1775), née Denison, was married to Ebenezer Billings, hence the initials “B” for Billings at top, followed by their first initials, “E” and “P.” The widespread tradition in eighteenth-century New England society, according to which young brides produced bedcovers with the couple’s initials, would suggest that Phoebe and Ebenezer were married in 1741.  What is curious in this instance, however, is that according to surviving records, the couple was married in 1706; in fact, in 1741 Phoebe was 51 years old, had already been married to Ebenezer for 35 years and given birth to ten children. Therefore, in the pre-Victorian era, when specific symbolic gifts for each major wedding anniversary were not yet established, the making of this rug was likely meant to commemorate the couple’s 35th anniversary and celebrate a long and fruitful life in unison.

-- Kelley Tialiou, Curatorial Assistant

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Infinite Connections

This spring, twelve Phillips Academy students in Elaine Crivelli’s class "Art 300 Visual Culture: Discovering the Addison's Collection" worked together over a period of six weeks to curate an exhibition of twentieth-century art from the Addison Gallery of American Art’s permanent collection. The end result is a handsome show titled Infinite Connections. The title speaks to the main theme of the show which explores artists’ use of line, color, shape, and form to create their own vision of the world. Viewers are encouraged to make their own personal connections between the artworks in the exhibition just as the artists used the basic foundations of art to explore their own connections with the visual style of abstraction in painting, drawing, and photography. 

Laying out the exhibition
At the beginning of the semester, students met with Addison curators Susan Faxon and Allison Kemmerer, who provided the group with a list of 60 artworks in the collection and shared an overview of the types of abstract styles many of the artists employ in their work. Students were then divided into two groups and charged with the task of identifying potential themes that the works share. After much discussion, and sometimes through lively debates, they whittled the list down to 19 works. They began to see the visual (and ultimately infinite) connections between the artworks, and an order for displaying them began to emerge. To deepen their understanding of the artworks and the artists, each student conducted extensive research on two artists from their final list. They then presented their findings, with the class sharing information about the artists collectively. 

Addison preparators Brian Coleman and Jason Roy spent time with the class arranging the artwork on the walls of the Museum Learning Center. Students also met with Addison education staff Jamie Kaplowitz and Katherine Ziskin to learn more about the museum’s programs for Phillips Academy, and toured storage with David Perry of Addison security to find out about the complex systems that go into operating the building.

Gallery talk
Opening activity
On Tuesday, June 4, the class hosted a reception for Infinite Connections where students presented a gallery talk describing the process of curating the exhibition, and shared their knowledge about the artworks and the artists. Students conducted an activity with the audience using string, which cleverly illustrated the basic premise of the exhibition, that like the artists, viewers of the exhibition can experience the artworks on their own terms by making infinite connections between line, shape, color and form, the basic foundations of abstract art.

Infinite Connections will be on view in the Museum Learning Center through July 31.

-- Rebecca Hayes, Curator of Education

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Student Reflections on the Collection: Home by the Sea, Part 2

This academic year, the Addison education department has been fortunate to host three Phillips Academy students as they complete their Work Duty assignments. This past term, we asked the students to choose a work of art from the Addison’s permanent collection and to reflect on its personal and academic significance to the student. This is Part 2 of senior Lauren Kim's reflection on Thomas Worthington Whittredge's Home by the SeaPart 1 was posted last week.

Just beyond the homestead in the painting, there’s a bank of trees, which opens up to wide, free-spirited plains. The expansive land is similar to a blank canvas in the way that both spaces are open for creation or imagination to fill them—I feel a connection to these open spaces because they represent the expansion of my own horizons—the life that I’ve already experienced and also what’s to come. The homestead in the foreground comes off as more cozy and tight-knit than the distant land and water. Meanwhile, the land and water are free, boundless, and they hint at the idea of what lies outside the framed perspective of the canvas and the familiarity of home. I feel that the small farm identifies with my house, a place whose bounds I’ve grown up within, and the expansive pasture is a natural representation of experiencing the world for the first time: traveling to different countries, maturing intellectually and personality-wise, learning through personal struggle and victories. Whittredge is able to connect the different tiers of environment seamlessly by painting intricate, careful, and specific strokes and using a palette of soft, natural colors. The plains, the sea, and the sky fade from one to the next in a way that emanates a calming and comforting harmony.

Thomas Worthington Whittredge, Home by the Sea, 1872
The atmosphere of the painting is uncluttered and expansive, but instead of leaving the land completely cleared, Whittredge includes fieldworkers and ships. Although they are a small part of the painting, I find it interesting that he chose to include them. The focus could have been just entirely on the shifting of different aspects of nature (the water, the land, the sky) from one into another, but with the people, I thought about what part they play in the painting. I wondered what kind of backstories the workers on the field or on the ships had. Just spending time looking and reacting to it through my thoughts, I also thought about the correlation between the people and the landscape of the piece. I asked myself “how does the location of the people affect themselves or their roles?” Perhaps the ships and the people in the field represent one’s venturing outside familiar grounds: a departure.

People often grow up in a home like my own, but eventually they have to venture out into the world to discover new experiences and expose themselves to different outlooks on life in order to grow. These life opportunities let us open ourselves to diversity of all kinds—whether religious, cultural, or socioeconomic. If I never left home, I wouldn’t be able to fully realize who I could be—I would be held back by a constant feeling of closeness and familiarity. I found this painting in the Addison Gallery, on a campus that is so incredibly far from my home and everything I’ve come to associate with it. Now, I am someone completely different. I’m not the shy, youngest cousin who feels intimidated by her twenty-something cousins at family gatherings, or the daughter who needs my mom to pick me up from the ballet lessons and art classes that I attended against my will. I’ve changed, and I’m no longer restricted to the world of my home.

When I arrived at Andover as a 14 year-old, wide-eyed freshman, my past experiences leading up to that moment had been within the bounds of all things related to home. Now that I’ve been at Andover for almost four years, I’ve been able to develop this deeper sense of home, not limited by physical boundaries, and the underlying meanings a simple word like that could have for an individual. I think that in many ways, Andover has become a new home for me. Through countless meals in the cafeteria around the grey table with friends who I see and spend time with everyday, early mornings during Winter term shoveling paths outside Johnson Hall, and the enriched discussions that saturate the atmosphere in Bullfinch Hall as fully as my mind. So many aspects of Andover will be cherished after I leave, both the bad and the good times. Through reflecting on this painting, I’ve realized that you can’t experience something twice, or that sometimes you don’t truly know how significant something is to you until you don’t have it anymore. Of course, I haven’t lost my home; when I go back to Bannockburn during school breaks, everything often feels the same as the last time I was there, and yes, my parents, my friends, my room are still there. However, being away at Andover and stretching and growing through the challenging, fast-paced atmosphere at Phillips Academy has highlighted the true invaluable and irreplaceable quality of home.

My home will always give me a warming comfort through my pure memories of my childhood spent there.  When I spend time looking at Whittredge’s piece, I can just for a time forget about the uncertainties of my upcoming transition to college (or even my future at large)—the black canvas that lies before me—and remember my home. I feel that the painting depicts a beautiful scene of my life—how far I’ve come and how much further I will go. Home by the Sea reminds me of the future ahead of me. Symbolically like the open, clear sea in the painting—the same waters that have led countless explorers and expeditions to new, unknown destinations—I have my life ahead of me. Time is coming for me to find myself and establish my identity as a person and whichever roles I will take on.

--Lauren Kim, Phillips Academy Class of 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Student Reflections on the Collection: Home by the Sea, Part 1

This academic year, the Addison education department has been fortunate to host three Phillips Academy students as they complete their Work Duty assignments. This past term, we asked the students to choose a work of art from the Addison’s permanent collection and to reflect on its personal and academic significance to the student. Each student interpreted this assignment differently and we are excited to present the first part of the second essay in the series by Lauren Kim, Class of 2013.

Thomas Worthington Whittredge’s 1872 painting, Home by the Sea, tells a story that dissects the different paths we go through during life—the different terrains and surroundings that we move through to get to a destination that we choose in order to live out our lives to a fulfilling end. This painting has four levels of scenery: the farmhouse, the plains, the sea, and the sky. Each component adds a level of depth to the piece that engages me and challenges me to make my own connections to the painting. Not only are these different levels physically represented in the painting, but I also found the elements to symbolize greater themes in one’s personal journey.

Thomas Worthington Whittredge, Home by the Sea, 1872
In the foreground, a woman tends to her animals on the setting of a small homestead. The woman is calm, going through the pleasant routine of feeding the animals. The cozy, homey scene with the woman and her animals is an elegant touch of detail in Home by the Sea. The bright color of the woman’s clothing, the small flowers that adorn the surrounding bushes, the birds on the roof and around the fenced area bring brightness to the mostly green, golden yellow, and brown color palette of the farmhouse setting. Even though this woman and I have no relation, as I thought more about what the farmhouse and the woman’s presence may represent, I gravitated toward the idea of home because of the quaint and comfortable feel of the woman’s scene. I automatically recognized that this woman belonged to this scene: her home shaped her, as she had also shaped the home. For me, instead of being confined to describing just a house, the term home is a collection of physical, mental, and emotional memories from the place and the people that have shaped my foundation as a being. I interpreted the woman in the painting to have been the homemaker of this small farm. Being outside, tending to the animals suggests that she contributes to the household and may be the maternal figure of this family. Just like me, this woman has her own home—a place to call her own, a place as familiar as the back of her hand.

The author's home in Bannockburn, Illinois
During the Fall term of Senior year—a period of time that’s notorious for being the toughest part of a Phillips Academy career, filled with vast mountains of homework, college applications to be written, and non-academic responsibilities to be taken care of—I often reminisce about my home, and nostalgia settles in as I remember easier times: the good ol’ days. I can talk for hours on end about the memories I’ve collected as a kid born and raised in Bannockburn, a small village of the North Shore region of Chicago. Although my house looks like just another plain brick house in Midwestern suburbia, to me, my house feels like no other place in this world, and I grew up in the company of a family that’s one of a kind. From the kitchen that was ruled by my mother’s culinary prowess to the high ceilings in the living room that we added on during the first grade. In my mind, there are specific experiences and events pocketed in each aspect of my house, whether inside or out. The dining room reminds me of family Thanksgiving dinners that, in addition to the traditional American holiday menu, always featured a pot of rice and a bowl of kimchi. The tennis court that had a basketball hoop in our backyard reminds me of the glowing evenings when my dad would come home from work and use the short time of sunlight left to teach my sister how to play basketball, while I stood aside, watching them in admiration. I would walk around the tennis court, while I observed my sister trying to copy my dad’s shots and heard my dad’s strong but warm voice instructing her. Looking back on evenings like these, I laugh a little, remembering being grumpy because I was hungry and eagerly waiting for my mom to call us in for dinner. As these moments play in my head, I realize how far I am from these memories of home and how these special capsules of time are now only behind me; they are my past. I can remember the special moments, but I will never experience them in the exact same way.

A native of Springfield, Ohio, Whittredge was a self-taught painter. His journey of self-discovery and global exploration created an admiration for his home. Originally a house painter, Whittredge traveled to Europe in 1849 with a desire to become a better painter and to learn the European painting traditions. He combined his passion for art with his longing to experience different cultures. Whittredge was not alone. He was part of a movement of American painters who traveled and studied throughout Europe for cultural immersion during the 18th and 19th centuries. Whittredge’s extensive travels also include three trips to the American West in 1866, 1870, and 1871. As a result of the combination of international influence and his personal journey, he established and developed his special identity as a landscape painter, becoming known for painting pastoral scenes with wide, open spaces and natural light. After Whittredge went out into the world and soaked himself in other cultures that helped further shape his identity as a painter and an individual, he created Home by the Sea, the symbolism of which reminds me of his journey and a reminiscence of home.

“I think I can say that I was not the first or by any means the only painter of our country who has returned from a long visit abroad and not encountered the same difficulties in tackling home subjects.” Whittredge knew that his experiences and expanded knowledge from Europe changed him and his identity as a painter. Perhaps he felt a difficulty in painting home subjects because he felt that his depiction would be tainted by European influence instead of staying true to his original view of home prior to his travels. The different scenes within Whittredge’s painting reflect his mindfulness of the extended idea of home and how thoughts similar to the ones that run through my mind right now could have confronted him when he was painting.

For more on Whittredge and his work, see Faxon, Susan C., Avis Berman, and Jock Reynolds. Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years : A Selective Catalogue. Andover, MA: Addison Gallery of American Art, 1996; and Point Of View: Landscapes From The Addison Collection. Andover, MA: Addison Gallery  of American Art, 1992.

Part 2 of this essay will appear next week.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Student Reflections on the Collection: RFK Funeral Train Rediscovered

This academic year, the Addison education department has been fortunate to host three Phillips Academy students as they complete their Work Duty assignments. This past term, we asked the students to choose a work of art from the Addison’s permanent collection and to reflect on its personal and academic significance to the student. Each student interpreted this assignment differently and we are excited to present the first essay in the series by Lucy Frey, Class of 2013.

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation”
– Robert Francis Kennedy

Last fall I walked through the upstairs gallery at the Addison. Photographs from Paul Fusco’s RFK Funeral Train Rediscovered lined the walls. The images pulled me in and entranced me as I dizzied myself walking around the room multiple times. The emotions that it provoked were unforgettable. In the cool, yet muggy air of the gallery I can still hear the cheering of the crowds and his voice echoing, “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.” Just a year later I am reunited with one of the pieces. It is just one photo hanging on the wall in a different gallery and a different exhibition, almost unfamiliar to me at first. As I step towards the piece, I gasp quietly, I feel my heart beat quicken in excitement, like I have found missing treasure. The single photo is one piece of the puzzle, one cart on a train passing by, and one picture from a collection, but it puts me back in the upstairs gallery, to the moment when I fell in love with the hazy images of a time decades before I was born.

Paul Fusco, Untitled from RFK Funeral Train Undiscovered

Flocks of people were drawn to Bobby, even in his death. He inspired all of America, black men and women, white men and women, soldiers, business men, Latinos, adolescents, and people of all religions. They were the people that made up this country and he believed in them as much as they believed in him. A river of working class people passed his coffin at his wake and millions lined the train tracks on June 8, 1968, the day of his casket’s ride from New York to Washington. They stood, they knelt, they saluted one of the greatest politicians of all time. They wept, they screamed out, and they sat in silence as he graced their presence for the last time. Even years after his political life and public death Robert Kennedy inspires the youth of today: reading about him in history textbooks or learning of his legacy through television programs; pictures of him, his brothers, and other family members are everywhere. The Kennedy family members are political royalty, celebrities, and role models for America. But it is what he did that affects people still. The words he spoke throughout his lifetime were strong and passionate, just as the funeral train montage. His sweet words of advice inspire me to be patient and kind, but also inspire me to think about the world in a larger scale and not just what affects me personally.

Seeing the singular photo reminds me of when I saw the exhibit for the first time. As I walked through the gallery, these photos were aligned across the walls. I walked along the perimeter and I saw a snapshot of each moment, feeling as if I was on the train myself, looking out on the millions of people who RFK supported and loved. The blur of the photograph made me feel like I was on a moving train moving through time, and at each picture I picked up one or two things, but never everything. Facial expressions, the latest fashions, and different types of people, but what was constant were the appearance of hands. Clothes may have changed, from women’s dress to a man’s. Landscapes may change from country to city. And expressions may change person to person, but the hands always seemed to tell the true story, through expression and movement.

A cartoon image from elementary school pops into my head. The image of different hands coming together, interlocking fingers with one another, lining up around the world holding hands, people of all different races, standing together, smiling, working with one another to make the world a better place. My eyes wander back to the photographs, to the people standing together, holding hands, and together honoring a fallen brother, politician, and friend. At this point I look down at my own hands, small and dainty, slightly callused, reminiscent of work over the summer, and tough from taking notes and writing in school. They are my hands and they tell my own story. Although they are personal and mine, as I look back at the photograph I see the hands of others and I wonder how my own hands could fit in with those. I begin to notice people in a new and different tone, staring intensely at the creases on the palms, the dirt under the fingernails, or the curling of the fingers. I am peering into a private moment. A nun praying, a man reaching out, a woman wiping her tears or a row of children, stick straight, hands by their sides while their father salutes to passing train. Hands hold signs, capturing the image of thoughts and prayers in the hearts of the people, “God Bless the Kennedys,” “God Bless Bobby,” “We will miss you,” “Who will be the next one,” “Pray for us Bobby,” “We have lost our last hope.”

The hands tell the story of the American people, the family that Bobby represented and fought for. The hands come together, all different colors, black, white, tan, and of all different classes smooth, rough, or soiled, and the hands speak to us through the pictures, through the glass, and into the gallery. We see a story of confidence, recognition, and devotion, a story that is unforgettable just as his life was, and a story that will never be forgotten. And from the wise words of RFK himself we learn, “Tragedy is a toll for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”

--Lucy Frey, Phillips Academy Class of 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

Collaborative Community Programming at the Addison

The Addison Gallery of American Art is fortunate to have a number of creative and inspirational community partners. The Merrimack Valley is chock-full of arts and programming, and the education department has recently partnered with three nearby institutions to create unique programming for our audiences.

Our first scheduled collaborative program this winter is presented with the Rogers Center for the Arts at Merrimack College, where the Bridgeman/Packer Dance Company will be presenting their piece, VOYEUR, on Friday, February 22 at 7:30 pm. VOYEUR is a combination of live and virtual aspects and is inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper. Noting Bridgeman/Packer’s inspiration and the Addison’s fine collection of paintings by Hopper, the museum will be hosting Community Conversation: Hopper Realism, and Quiet Moments in the Addison’s Museum Learning Center at 6:00 pm on Thursday, February 7. For this program, we will present the Addison’s Hopper paintings Manhattan Bridge Loop; Freight Cars, Gloucester Cars; and Railroad Train; along with artworks by Hopper’s contemporaries. After providing some background information, the audience will be asked to share thoughts, ideas, and observations with the group. Please note: There is currently a waiting list for this program. To sign up for the wait list please e-mail Tickets to VOYEUR may be purchased online.

Also this season, we are proud to partner with the Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) in Lowell in recognition of Redthe Tony Award-winning play about painter Mark Rothko by John Logan. In this fiery and fiercely funny drama, a lucrative commission challenges Rothko’s aesthetic, and he and his young assistant must work feverishly to blend art and commerce. In honor of Red, the Addison’s Eye on the Collection and Stone, Wood, Metal, Mesh: Prints and Printmaking exhibitions this season include works of art by the artists referenced in the play, including Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, and others. Red runs at the MRT February 14 through March 10; tickets may be purchased at Friends of the Addison are eligible for a $5 discount on adult tickets to Red. To join the Friends of the Addison, please visit our website.

Finally, we are pleased to present a program with long-term collaborators, Andover’s Memorial Hall Library. In conjunction with their Women’s Month programming in March, the Addison will host Community Conversation: Women in Photography in the Museum Learning Center on March 26 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. The Addison’s first photography acquisition was a work by Margaret Bourke-White. Together, audience participants and I will explore photographs made by women photographers from the Addison’s permanent collection and discuss why many of them were pioneers in the field. Space is limited, please register online.

We look forward to an enlightening series of programs with our collaborators this season.

--Kait Ziskin, Education Fellow for School and Community Collaboration